Atlantic City, NJ, known for its famous boardwalk, nice beaches, and of course, thriving casinos, is no stranger to restaurants that offer cheap, late-night eats. Tony’s Baltimore Grill, located on Atlantic Avenue near the Tropicana Casino, has been providing its customers with delicious food and drinks since it began in 1927. Giving off a unique 1950’s vibe, Tony’s Baltimore Grill features retro decorations, including jukeboxes at every booth and wood paneling that line the walls. Their menu, which has seen very little change over all of these years, includes a variety of Italian comfort eats like pizza, pasta, seafood, and sandwiches. The nostalgic, old-school atmosphere, paired with the delicious food and enjoyable drinks, has kept customers coming back for over 90 years. Co-owner Fred Pugh, who started working for Tony’s Baltimore Grill in April of 1969, has done a fantastic job of preserving the authenticity and values of the restaurant.
Heady Times met with Fred Pugh to learn more about the restaurant’s rich history and the different ways that they have established themselves as a prominent Atlantic City Landmark.
Heady Times (HT): After working with Tony’s Baltimore Grill for almost 52 years, what kind of things do you incorporate into your schedule to keep it interesting?
Fred Pugh (FP):Interacting with our customers is something that I have done for years. I enjoy staying busy. If you were to ask anyone about Tony’s Baltimore Grill, chances are that they know who Fred is. Over the years, I have held many different positions, including busboy, bartender, manager, and now owner. It has given me the opportunity to interact with a variety of different people and really get to know the business very well.
HT: The Jersey Shore, which is historically a very seasonal destination for most, has presented business owners with some challenging circumstances in the past. What did Tony’s Baltimore Grill do that made them stand out from the crowd?
FP:In 1927, the restaurant originally opened at a different location. In 1966, a few years before I became an employee, we moved to our current location. Aside from being closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, our transition to the new location in 1966 was the only time that Tony’s has ever closed its doors. When Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore, we were one of the few places that stayed open in order to provide service to the individuals who were out trying to prevent damage from the storm.
HT: Along with the extensive food menu that is offered at Tony’s Baltimore Grill, there is also a variety of different beers and cocktails that are available. Tell us a little about that.
FP: There are constantly new beers that are becoming popular, especially because of the rise in craft beer over the last few years. We rely pretty heavily on the opinion of our salesman, Joe Acampora, who provides us with samples and explains the changing industry very well. Our customers also recommend different beers that we will also consider. In the near future, we are looking to expand the number of tap handles that we have so we can accommodate more of our customers’ needs with different styles of beer.
HT: Tony’s Baltimore Grill is considered to be a landmark in Atlantic City. What has kept customers coming back throughout the years?
FP:Our customers love our pizza. For us, consistency is key. We have not changed the way that we prepare our pizza since we opened in 1927. A fan favorite is our sausage pizza, which is uniquely made with raw sausage, as opposed to traditionally putting cooked sausage on the pie before throwing it in the oven. In my opinion, it is the best sausage pizza around. The relationships that I have built with the customers have allowed me to learn their orders, remember things about their life, and other little details that make them feel extremely appreciated.